Legend Meets Legend: John Mitchell & Rick Knight

It’s a summit meeting between the elder statesmen in BC craft and BC hop farming.

The Setup

Now in his vintage years, Rick Knight of Knight Hop Consulting is a legend in the BC hops industry. He’s well known as the long-time foreman at the last of BC’s original hop farms. The John I. Haas Hop Company, at one point, owned all of the hop yards in Chilliwack, a total of 1325 acres; it all came to a bitter end in 1997.

John Mitchell, meanwhile, is known not for being the last of a line, but rather for being the very first. BC’s first “cottage brewery” owner, brewer and publican is a living legend–especially now, thanks to an explosion in BC craft brewing, the industry he personally bootstrapped with the establishment of Horseshoe Bay Brewing in 1982.

Thanks to a meetup organized by BC Hop Co. General Manager Dwayne Stewart, John and Rick were able to make acquaintance decades after their paths would have crossed in business. You see, Horseshoe Bay actually bought the occasional batch of hops from John I. Haas, way back in the early 1980s, before Rick was the last man standing.

Highlights

  • John clearly recalls his former contacts at Haas: Don Rose, the company manager long before Rick, as well as Helen, secretary to Don and eventually Rick.
  • John recalls stuffing a 200 lb hop bale in the back of his pickup truck, and getting tourists to help unload it in Horseshoe Bay.
  • John tells a great story about the “true father of BC craft”: Peter Hyndman of the BC Social Credit party–for all the wrong reasons.
  • Rick talks about starting at Haas in 1968 as a tractor driver, working his way up to foreman of a farm, then managing the entire operation.
  • We find out that Haas’ Canadian operations were sold, in part, to the Acquilini Group.
  • Rick admits he doesn’t actually like beer! Now rum, that’s another story.
  • Rick remembers how the emerging microbrewing industry was viewed as a potential market by the BC hops industry–but it didn’t come in time to save Haas in Canada.
  • John talks about the origin of the microbrewing revolution as a reaction to big beer, and credits CAMRA UK as a force.

Video Info

Length: 15 min
Recording Date: June 1, 2017
Location: BC Hop Co., 1893 Cole Rd, Abbotsford, BC

Present:

  • Rick Knight
  • John Mitchell
  • Dwayne Stewart
  • John Ohler
  • Brian Zaporozan

Cameraman’s Notes

It was at the Fort Langley Food & Beer Festival media day that Dwayne first mentioned to me he was planning to introduce Rick and John, and asked if I was interested to come document it. I have to admit that I knew nothing of Rick Knight at the time (as these things usually happen, I now notice his name frequently). However, any chance to capture John Mitchell at an event will always sound good to me, so I packed up a couple of pieces of gear and headed out to Abbotsford on the day.

The video you see was captured in the most basic way: me standing around with my plain old Nikon D5300 DSLR still camera in video mode, trying to hold it steady. Making the job tougher was the fact that I had left my glasses behind in the car when entering the building. Since my eyesight is terrible without them, I was just considering heading back out to my vehicle to retrieve them when I spied Rick Knight entering the building. I reacted fast and managed to capture his arrival and introduction to the welcoming party, which consisted of Dwayne, John and John. Thankfully the autofocus did its job, and the video turned out OK.

You will hear intermittent noise from the plant equipment in the background, sometimes competing with the fellows’ voices, but fortunately not badly enough to ruin this nice little summit meeting video. There are a few laughs as the old boys recall a couple of stories; watching this, you can really pick up on their individual character and personalities.

– Dave Smith


Further Reading: Rick Knight & BC Hops

Growler Cartoon Book